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Elphinstone Scholarship - How does human SAF-A protein enable cell proliferation?

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Dr Shin-Ichiro Hiraga, Prof Anne Donaldson, Dr David Stead, Prof Masato Kanemaki  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

DNA replication and local chromatin structure are tightly correlated. However, our mechanistic understanding of the correlation is limited. We have recently discovered that human SAF-A protein, which is known to support an ‘open’ chromatin structure, contributes at multiple stages to ensure robust DNA replication (Connolly et al. 2022). Interestingly, expression of the SAF-A gene is increased in many cancer types, suggesting it contributes not only to normal cell proliferation but additionally to tumorigenesis. 

The PhD project aims to investigate whether a specific splicing variant of SAF-A contributes to DNA replication, and to dissect the molecular domains of SAF-A that support DNA replication and cell proliferation. The project will furthermore investigate the contribution of SAF-A to cellular resistance against anti-cancer drugs that interfere with DNA replication. These studies will help us understand how cells ensure robust DNA replication, and how cancer cells can withstand constant DNA replication stress.

 The research project will analyse cultured human cells using a wide variety of advanced cellular and molecular biology techniques, including genome engineering, RT-qPCR, flow cytometry, super-resolution microscopy, and proteomics.

A successful candidate will have a good background understanding of chromosome biology, and have a strong interest in the project.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact the lead supervisor Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga ([Email Address Removed]) for further information.

Essential background of student:

Applicants should hold a 1st Class UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject. Those with a 2:1 UK Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered, provided they have (or are expected to achieve) a Distinction or Commendation at Master’s level.


This project will be based within the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), part of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, at the University of Aberdeen. The IMS is located on the Foresterhill Health Campus, one of the largest clinical complexes in Europe, which also includes the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, the Rowett Institute, and a large teaching hospital.



Please note: The funding for this project covers tuition fees and research costs only, no stipend or living costs are provided.

  • Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
  • You should apply for Medical Sciences (PhD) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team.
  • Please clearly note the name of the lead supervisor and project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application it will not be considered for the studentship.
  • Please include a personal statement, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and relevant educational certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate and postgraduate (if applicable)).
  • Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • General application enquiries can be made to [Email Address Removed] 

Funding Notes

This 36 Month project is funded by a prestigious University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and includes funding to cover tuition fees and research costs only. No stipend or living costs are provided.
Funding for international students does not cover visa costs (either for yourself or for accompanying family members), immigration health surcharge or any other additional costs associated with relocation to the UK.
The expected start date is February 2023.


Connolly et al. 2022. J Cell Sci 135 (2): jcs258991. https://doi.org/10.1242/jcs.258991
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